Saturday, June 08, 2024

Pulling Faces

 —Poetry by Mike Hickman, York, England
—Images Courtesy of Public Domain

You don’t so much roll your eyes,
As bowl them,
Your eyebrows performing Schulz-style
Apostrophes of incomprehension
Somewhere above your forehead,
Floating in thin air,
As you pull that face
At my colleague, or my colleague’s behaviour
Or your disgust at whatever it is this time,
And all I can do,
As I watch your mobile features contort themselves
Is wonder,
Who pulled that face to you?
Was it mummy or daddy?
Was it a teacher or a squadron leader?
Who are you mirroring when you gurn your way
Round your reaction to the people you disdain,
Because it isn’t a good look,
It doesn’t sit well with your position,
It gives far too much away
Of how people must have treated you,
And what you have inspired in them.

It raises the prospect
Of just how much fun
It would be
To play poker with you.

We always know when you have the losing hand.

(prev. pub. in T
he Haven)

Now, I don’t know why this needs to be said,
When you are, in your own estimation,
Of such tremendous renown,
With personal and professional achievements
Lighting up a life of almost total success,
And you have been on every board in the land,
Passed every audition,
Hobnobbed with everyone of note,
And been fêted with garlands and medals
(And money, let’s not forget the money).
I don’t know why this needs to be said
To a gentleman who enters every room
With the beatific smile of the Hollywood star,
Knowing that he is recognised,
And expecting the autograph books to come his way
(No doubt, so he can refuse them),
I have never met you before.
I do not know who you are until this moment.
I don’t know your name until you are introduced to me,
And it’s interesting how few people will enter
Your immaculate orbit to perform those introductions.
As you do not have your CV stapled to your forehead,
And as there aren’t billboards advertising your brilliance
On every street corner,
I have nothing else to rely on,
When it comes to assessing your character,
Than the way you present yourself
In this moment,
This one obnoxious moment,
As a complete and total,
Absolute insufferable arse.

And, believe me, before you doubt my qualifications
to comment,
I know all about that,
Having got being an insufferable arse off to such a perfect
tee myself.

(prev. pub.  in
The Haven)


You are the door handle through the belt loop,
That upends me on the way into the bathroom,
When my visit was already urgent.

You are the coaster stuck to the glass,
Causing me to spill my drink down my front,
At precisely the point I am making my introduction.

You are the knife at the bottom of the washing-up bowl,
Which I never once manage to encounter by the handle,
And never with the hand I don’t actually need for 
everything I do.

You are the crumbs in the toaster
That spill over my trousers when I gently move the thing
Seconds before the visitors arrive.

You are the chewing gum on the underside of the seat
On the bus, when I’m trying to relax,
Or bracing myself at the driver’s poor braking.

You are all these things to me,
In every waking moment I have to share with you,
And you’re there in the bloody dreams I have, too.

Oh, don’t be offended,
Don’t be upset,
And don’t ever change,
Because your level of nuisance is more bearable than
so much else in this world.
And it does, at least, give me something to write about.

(prev. pub.  in
The Haven)

The man in the specs wants to sum up, somehow.
“So much loss,” is the way he puts it,
Blinking behind his lenses, his eyes dewy and doe-like,
If said doe was also suffering from a migraine.
“It’s more than most”, he says,
Paisley hankie dabbing at his forehead,
“But I’m sure you know that.”

It isn’t that we have been counting the lost.
I haven’t even covered my grandparents,
My uncles, the fact my father’s family were unknown
to us
Even from the first.
I haven’t talked about my father leaving,
And my mother never really being a mother at all.
There hasn’t been the chance.

Because grief, it turns out,
According to the man in the specs,
Is not just about those lost to age and time,
Some of them even naturally,
But those things lost even as they began,
Those things lost that promised so much
Even if only for the one day.

Grief, it turns out, is something you make me feel.
Albeit not the kind you had already caused
With the upset and the attempt and the trips to A and E.
Grief, it turns out, is what follows
When promise is upended,
And even the gaslight is extinguished.

Grief is all I have left of you.

The man in the specs wants to sum up, somehow.
“So much loss,” is the way he puts it,
Blinking behind his lenses, his eyes dewy and doe-like,
If said doe was also suffering from a migraine.
And he is right.
It is more than most.
It isn’t just you.
So it is a wonder he expects me to let it out,
To recognise the emotion,
To accept it and maybe even begin to move on.

I accepted it many, many years ago.
And—surely he can see this?—made it a key part of
who I am.

Cause me grief, why don’t you?
It is all I have come to expect.

(prev. pub.  in
Know Thyself, Heal Thyself)


You worry about it, you say.
You worry that it has slipped,
Your personal microphone pop filter-shield
That protects your listeners from more than your ‘plosives.
You worry that you might have let something loose,
In “Paging Dr Freud” fashion,
And you say this, too,
When feeling secure enough to share,
And perhaps your colleague worries,
Fears that you will feel this is a filter slip, too,
Except he wouldn’t
Because, on the list of personal qualities
That you carry with you in everything you do,
There is the conscientiousness and the humility
That mean you worry about the filter in the first place,
That you listen to what you say when you say it,
And you reflect on it afterwards,
Sharing the vulnerability,
Wanting to learn,
Wanting to do better next time,
Wanting to grow.
The unfiltered truth, of course,
Is that you do not need to worry
To be good at what you do,
But the fact you do is one of the reasons
You are capable of being so.

And there is the only filter that,
every so often,
Ought to be allowed to slip.

The one that does not let you see
How very good a person you truly are.

(prev. pub. in Know Thyself, Heal Thyself)


Today’s LittleNip:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

—Dr. Seuss


—Medusa, with thanks to Mike Hickman for his fine poetry today!


A reminder that
Sacramento Poetry Alliance
features Sally Ashton and Cami DuMay
in Sacramento today at 4pm; and the
Ina Coolbrith Annual Poets’ Dinner/Picnic
meets in Pinole today, starting at noon.
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